Hot Fun in the Summertime

Woodhouse Moor bandstand, scene of many a 19th-century summer concert (1885)

Woodhouse Moor bandstand, scene of many a 19th-century summer concert (1885)

Walk through Woodhouse Moor on any summer’s day and you are sure to see throngs of young revellers. But, we wondered, how did our ancestors enjoy the Moor during warm weather? We took a look in the Leeds Mercury, via the 19th-century British Newspapers  website (free to all library members) to find out.

Our most interesting find revolved around a series of free open-air concerts that took place on Woodhouse Moor during the 1800s. These concerts, which attracted thousands, seem to have begun after an “experimental” season of musical concerts by the “Leeds Rational Recreation Society” in 1852; deemed an overwhelming success, it was decreed that bands would play on Woodhouse Moor two days a week during June and July “for the amusement and gratification of the working classes.” These concerts must have been a success – because a year later, on the 23rd of July, 1853, the Mercury was commending the tradesmen of Leeds for their decision to close early, thus allowing people to enjoy the charms of the Woodhouse Moor performances.

Convergence of two pathways at Woodhouse Moor. The bandstand can be seen in the distance

Convergence of two pathways at Woodhouse Moor. The bandstand can be seen in the distance (1897)

But by 1856 there was trouble in the summer air – bad weather preventing performances in June of that year. This came as a welcome surprise to the religious communities of Leeds as, by now, the performances had begun taking place on Sundays, as well as Mondays and Saturdays. A small article was posted in the Mercury on the 28th June 1856 by the Primitive Methodist Preachers, objecting wholeheartedly to such a sacrilegious outrage: “the evils resulting from such innovations on the Lord’s Day…are fearful and numerous”. Their mood was probably not helped by a report from two days previous that mourners at a funeral taking place at Woodhouse cemetery were disturbed by the sound of the band performing on the Moor!

It is not clear whether these objections resulted in the concerts being stopped – but there are no more references to them taking place until 1880, when a letter to the Mercury on the 12th of April of that year saw “A Townsman” calling for band performances to take place there – just as “Roundhay park is about to have its promenade concerts”. The call must have been taken up because, in February of 1882, the city council was reported to be discussing a bye-law that would prevent musical concerts taking place on Woodhouse Moor during Sundays.

Again, it is not clear if that measure was passed, but by September of 1883 the Mercury was commenting on the ending of that summer’s season of concerts and how well-attended they had been. The newspaper was, however, disappointed at how little financial support the people of Leeds were providing the organisers of the performances – in particular, the one “public-spirited gentleman” who bore the majority of costs. That article does not name names, but by May of 1890 it was reported that Alderman North was to receive a complimentary tea from the Band Committee in recognition of his continuing support. That tea formed part of a celebratory event that was attended by the Mayor, who delighted to see “thousands of people collected there, well-behaved, pleased with the band” and also spoke of the change in the Moor from a “barren wasteland” to one of the most pleasant areas of the city.

View down ornamental archways at Woodhouse Moor. A drinking fountain donated by Alderman North can be seen. 1897

View down ornamental archways at Woodhouse Moor. A drinking fountain donated by Alderman North can be seen (1897)

The Mayor also reminded those in attendance that all proceeds from the performances were to go to the Leeds Infirmary. It seems, however, that some were not listening to him: an article in May of 1891 saw the Mercury reporting that sums of only £25-30 were being given by the Band Committee to the Infirmary charities (small amounts, even for the time: the Leeds Library service Annual Report for 1891 reports that £389 were taken in fines that year). Two years later the same call for additional charitable donations was made.

At the same time complaint was made about the weather at the time of the early summer performances. This could, perhaps, be one reason for the small amounts of donations made. One reader of the Mercury, however, held a different view: in the edition for July 18, 1900, “A Disgusted Supporter” wrote to the paper to contend that the public’s lack of support for the Woodhouse Moor performances was due to a lack of strong audience management, a failing that was spoiling the concerts for true music lovers. He was especially distressed by the behaviour of children – “playing tig, leap frog, etc etc – whilst close to the band stand a crowd of children assemble and beat time on the railings with sticks, also put leaves in their mouths and squeak an accompaniment to the band”. Horrendously anti-social behaviour which, we are sure, will not be repeated by anyone sunning themselves on Woodhouse Moor this summer…

Children frolicking on Woodhouse Moor. It is unclear if these are the same children that could be seen with leaves in their mouths at the Woodhouse Moor concerts (early 1900s)

Children frolicking on Woodhouse Moor. It is unclear if these are the same children that could be seen eating leaves during the Woodhouse Moor concerts (early 1900s)

The images here are all taken from our photographic archive www.leodis.net

Read More: Commemorating Waterloo, June 18 1815 – “The history book on the shelf…”

  • by Antony Ramm, Local and Family History, Central Library

This is an entry in our Read More series. These are ‘long-form’ articles, where staff offer a curated and detailed look at areas of our book collections, usually based around a specific theme or subject. These posts aim to guide the interested reader through to those books that offer a more in-depth look at a topic, or which are classics in their field.

Yesterday marked the 200th-anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. Among the most important military battles of European history, the Waterloo campaign and the wider wars against Napoleon defined the political contours of the next hundred years.

Despite being many hundreds of miles away, the Battle touched the people of Leeds and West Yorkshire as much as anywhere. That was almost entirely due to the presence in Belgium of the 33rd Regiment of Foot, a group of soldiers drawn mainly from the West Yorkshire area. The image below shows an article from the Leeds Mercury about a Hymn that was sung in the nearby Birstall Parish Chruch to commemorate the fallen soldiers a few weeks after June 18th 1815. This article was found using the fantastic website 19th-Century Newspapers, available to all members of the Leeds Library and Information Service.

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Further evidence for this localised concern by can be seen in another item from our Special Collections – the Reverend Peter Roe’s A Sermon Preached in the Chapel of Harrogate, in Behalf of the Sufferers by the Battle of Waterloo (dated July the 30th, 1815).

There are many stories that could be told of the men who served in that regiment and, indeed, a national campaign is currently underway to encourage people to uncover the tales of their ancestors who fought at Waterloo. If you are interested in searching your own family tree for a long-lost soldier of the 33rd Regiment, pop into our Local and Family History department where staff can advise you on starting your research and the different military records available across genealogical websites like Find My Past and Ancestry (available in all Leeds libraries). One place to start is the Waterloo Medal Roll. The library holds a copy of this volume, which can be browsed by consulting staff. Histories of the 33rd Regiment are also available to consult in the library.

If you want to gain a deeper understanding of the Battle more generally, there are many recently-published books available through the Library service. Additionally, however, together with numerous classic works of scholarship on Napoleon and his times, the Information and Research department is also the custodian for a fascinating selection of treasures from the period – including eyewitness accounts, contemporary reports and histories and military memoirs. You can also read how the government of the day reacted to events on the continent by browsing our collection of Hansard’s Parliamentary Debates.

Some of these items are currently on display outside the department, on the 2nd Floor of the Central Library. Among the most interesting of our treasures is The Battle of Waterloo: Containing the Series of Accounts Published by Authority, British and Foreign. This volume – published the same year as the Battle itself and written anonymously by ‘A Near Observer’ – contains a “variety of authentic and original sources, with relative official documents”, including the descriptions of French and British soldiers, letters to and from the frontline and some frankly astonishing contemporaneous illustrations of the battlefield. One such image can be seen below.

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Another similar volume is the Lieutenant G.W. Picton’s The Battle of Waterloo: Or, a General History of the Events Connected with that Important Era. This book is another compendium of information from a wide variety of sources – including the official account of the French military, “miscellaneous anecdotes” and extracts from publications such as the London Gazette. Again, the Piction book contains some incredible illustrations from the very time of the events being described.

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The Library also holds a very rare copy of The Life and Opinions of Sir Charles James Napier. As far as we can tell, this particular edition of Sir Charles’ memoirs includes original documents alongside later printed copies of relevant sections from a biography of the General. Other extraordinary details include what appear to be original seals and even some kind of military headgear! This item forms part of the Gascoigne Collection of militaria; if any reader has any information they can provide us as to the provenance of this extraordinary item we would be delighted to hear from them.

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The Library’s copy of Sir Charles’ memoirs. Sections of original documents relating to Waterloo are circled

Further items available in our collections can be identified through a Waterloo Research Guide we have created. Please contact the library or ask a member of staff to gain access to any of the items listed in that guide.

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Front page of our Waterloo research guide. Click on the link above to view the full list of books

Read More: Magna Carta – ‘The Great Charter’ of 1215

  • by Antony Ramm, Information and Research, Central Library

This is an entry in our Read More series. These are ‘long-form’ articles, where staff offer a curated and detailed look at areas of our book collections, usually based around a specific theme or subject. These posts aim to guide the interested reader through to those books that offer a more in-depth look at a topic, or which are classics in their field.

450-year old edition of the Magna Carta held at Leeds Central Library

450-year old edition of the Magna Carta held at Leeds Central Library

On the 15th of June 1215 a band of rebellious barons forced the despised King John to agree to a list of legal demands. The 800th-anniversary of the ‘Magna Carta’ is an occasion well worth marking, even if many of the concerns and subsequent demands made in that ‘Great Charter’ are now of little concern.

That is because the Magna Carta contains – at the very least – one passage that has reverberated down through the centuries: the legendary Clause 39. Its text reads: “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.” That last phrase – “the law of the land” – was the most vital; indicating as it did that there was a body of rulings that could be appealed to above and beyond the arbitrary intentions of whoever currently wielded power.

Before that idea could be truly understood, however, the Charter had to be made explicable to those elements of society that did not grasp Latin. So it was that, in 1534, the Magna Carta was translated into English for the first time, by the parliamentarian George Ferrers, whose own dealings with arbitrary power proved the necessity of the rule of law. The image at the top of this article shows the library’s 1541 edition of that translation, while the image below shows the celebrated Clause 39 as it appears in Ferrers’ translation.

Clause 39 as it appears in the 1541 edition of Ferrers translation. The modern separation of the document into 63 Clauses or Chapters was introduced in 1759 by William Blackstone; hence Clause 39 appearing here as Clause 29

Clause 39 as it appears in the 1541 edition of Ferrers translation. The modern separation of the document into 63 Clauses or Chapters was introduced in 1759 by William Blackstone; hence Clause 39 appearing here as Clause 29

Our 1541 edition is especially interesting – and possible worthy of further investigation – because it features a note indicating that the book was printed by Elizabeth Pickering, widow of the printer Robert Redman and the first English woman to print books.

Note at the back of the 1541 Magna Carta, indicating that the volume was printed by Elizabeth Redman

Note at the back of the 1541 Magna Carta, indicating that the volume was printed by Elizabeth Redman

Redman was himself a curious figure, known for his feud with another well-known publisher of the time, Thomas Pynson. Redman angered the more-established Pynson – the King’s Printer – by moving into the latter’s old premises at St Clement Danes, outside Temple Bar, and then adopting Pynson’s sign of The George and adapting his own monogram “RR” to more closely resemble Pynson’s “RP”.

Pynson responded in his 1528 edition of Thomas Littleton’s Tenures by describing Redman as “Rob.Redman, sed verius Rudeman” (“Robert Redman, or more properly called ‘Robert Rudeman’”). Littleton’s Tenures was the first text-book on English property law and was the subject of a celebrated commentary by the 17th-century jurist Edward Coke, in his Institutes of the Lawes of England (1628) – a book which, to come full-circle, contains a hugely-influential analysis and interpretation of the Magna Carta as the cornerstone of English liberties. The legal scholar William Blackstone was just one who drank deeply from Coke’s well and, in his Commentaries on the Laws of England: In Four Volumes (1759), he asserted that there was “no transaction in the ancient part of our English history more interesting and important” than the creation of the Magna Carta.

A slightly more modern analysis is to be found in Richard Thomson’s An Historical Essay on the Magna Carta of King John (1829). This comprehensive volume includes copies of the Charter in both English and Latin; “explanatory notes on their several privileges”; and various historical essays relating the background to the signing of the Charter and the life of King John.

Front-piece to Thomson’s work on the Magna Carta (1829)

Front-piece to Thomson’s work on the Magna Carta (1829)

The Magna Carta was next seriously assessed by a scholar in William Sharp McKechnie’s celebrated commentary at the start of the twentieth-century, a copy of which is available in our library. A collection of Magna Carta Commemoration Essays, published by the Royal Historical Society in 1917, can also be seen here. More modern analyses and interpretations include Geoffrey Hindley’s The Book of Magna Carta – which details the afterlife of the Charter, specifically its role in English and American history – and J.C. Holt’s authoritative Magna Carta. Faith Thompson’s 1948 work Magna Carta: its role in the Making of the English Constitution, 1300-1629 shows something of how the Charter developed from an obscure collection of feudal demands into the guiding light of liberty and democracy.

These last three items are available for loan from the Information and Research department, with all other volumes mentioned here being for reference viewing. Please contact the library to arrange access.

Trials of a Leeds Soldier

Many Leeds citizens fought valiantly in the First World War, but few could tell a tale as fascinating as William (sometimes ‘Willie’) Lonsdale. This week, the Secret Library brings you an abridged version of his story, researched and written by one of our team of volunteers, using the resources available in our Local and Family History department. If you’re interested in volunteering for one of our upcoming heritage-themed projects at Leeds Central Library, email libraryvolunteers@leeds.gov.uk for more information.

Willie Lonsdale during WW1

Willie Lonsdale’s time in the armed forces began when he enlisted in the Territorial Force during 1903 and was posted to the 2nd Battalion of the Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment. Unfortunately, Willie’s military record is part of the “Burnt Collection” at the National Archives and what remains is difficult to read and piece together. However, as he is shown living and working in Leeds on the 1911 census we can be sure that he had left the Territorials by then. Willie’s total service in the Territorials is shown as 1 year and 194 days.

Between 1914 and 1918, however, Willie’s name appears in the Absent Voters List, which shows that he was now a Private, no. 7471 in his old regiment, the Second West Riding’s, and was posted to France – where he was taken prisoner on 24th August 1914 and sent to Doeberitz prison camp.

On 9th November 1914 Willie was involved in an incident which led to him being sentenced to death. According to newspaper reports, Willie and 250 fellow captives failed to assemble quickly enough for the German guards and a general fracas erupted between the British prisoners and the guards. Willie received a blow from the butt of a rifle, retaliated by punching a guard and was subsequently put on trial. Willie had two trials; the first was on the 1st December 1914 at a military court in Berlin, when he was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. The second trial occurred on 29th December 1914, after which Willie received the death sentence.

On 4th January 1915 the Yorkshire Evening Post published an article detailing an appeal by the Lord Mayor of Leeds asking the American authorities to save the life of Private Lonsdale. That article can be seen below:

The Lord Mayor's appeal

The Lord Mayor’s appeal

Willie’s plight aroused interest in America and his appeal was successful: on the 21st June 1915 his sentence was commuted to 15 years imprisonment and he was held in solitary confinement at Spandau until 2nd August 1917.

Willie – now known as Bill – was moved between various prison camps spending time at Doebritz, Dyrotz, Sinkenkrug and Botzow. Bill was put to work unloading refuse collected from the streets of Berlin, the smell was terrible and after a month he refused to do the work. Shortly after this, Lonsdale and several others broke out of Botzow and marched back to Dyrotz, using a compass to guide them, where they expected to be punished. On arriving at Dyrotz, however, instead of being taken to the cells, the group was taken to the barrack room. Shortly after, following more appeals, Bill was reprieved by order of the Kaiser.

Bill arrived at Leith on a captured German liner on 2nd January 1919 and was taken to Ripon Dispersal Camp where he spent the night before travelling back to Leeds by train on 4th January 1919. Mrs Lonsdale and the children were waiting for Bill at the station where they had a happy reunion before making their way home to Fraser Road, where a hero’s welcome awaited him.

Willie is reunited with his loved ones

Willie is reunited with his loved ones